Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Carved Aspen Mjolnir #2

This is a Thor's Hammer I recently finished carving from aspen wood.  It will be available for sale at http://heathengods.storenvy.com/.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gear Bind-Rune Design

Gear Bind-Rune Design

I was just messing around with design elements...and this idea of combining a gear image with our bind-rune came to mind. For me...it is just such a clear design element. And it communicates (for me at least) the interconnected nature of our kindred with other kindreds and heathens families. It also communicates a certain working-class frame of mind that I don't mind communicating about our kindred as well.  Click here to see the various designs.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lightning Across the Plains...Almost Here!

The Lightning Across the Plains regional gathering and Thing is coming up fast on Sept 20-23, 2012.  Heathen Kindreds, families, and individuals from across the Midwest will be traveling 3 hours, 8 hours, and some 16 hours or more to attend.  Over 200 Heathens will participate together in religious activities, workshops, games, and social interaction.  They will watch their children play together, they will share meals, exchange stories, laugh together and form bonds of friendship.

In the true spirit of regional cooperation, many kindreds and individuals work on making sure LATP is a productive and successful events.  The workshops are presented by a wide range of people, each sharing information about a topic from their point of view.  Manning the gate, preparing the meals, and setting up for various activities are shared tasks.  Even the religious activities are performed by several different kindreds.

Across the Midwest, Heathens are getting ready for LATP.  The finishing touches are being put on workshops and Fainings.  Crafts and artwork are being completed.  Heathens are getting their camping gear ready, and packing for their roadtrip to the gathering.  Jotun's Bane Kindred is in the final stretch of getting things ready for our guests.  And what's the payoff?

The payoff is an incredible weekend of information sharing.  Old friends seen...and new friends made.  A weekend where bonds are formed between kindreds and individuals from across our region.  And as our kids play and learn together a foundation is put in place for the future of Heathenry in our region.  LATP is fun, it is uplifting, it is enriching.  And it honors our Gods and our Ancestors.

The basic weekend registration price for LATP has not changed since we began in 2009.  For more details about the event or to register, visit http://latpgathering.com

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Temple of Our Heathen Gods - Version 2.0

In August of 2007, we started the Temple of Our Heathen Gods resource website.  While content has been added continuously over the past 5 years, the format and structure of the website has remained unchanged.

A Screenshot of the New Version of our Website

In August of 2012, our hosting service stopped supporting and running the version of PHP that our aging content management system depended on...causing our website to break and stop working.  So, to fix this problem and to celebrate our 5th Anniversary, we've been working on Temple of Our Heathen Gods, version 2.0.

Much of the content available on the old page has already been made available on the new website.  But, we're making the new website more mobile (phones, tablets, etc.) friendly, including a modern message board that is streamlined and user-friendly.  The message board even allows you to register using your Facebook account!  We're also making the new website more approachable for new heathens.

Please take a look at our work-in-progress, and check back in the coming weeks as we finish up our efforts in completely rebuilding our resource website.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sif's Field

Click on the image to see a larger version...

"In Norse mythology, Sif is a goddess associated with earth.  In both the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, Sif is the wife of the god Thor and is known for her golden hair.  In the Prose Edda, Sif is named as the mother of the goddess Þrúðr by Thor and of Ullr with a father whose name is not recorded. The Prose Edda also recounts that Sif once had her hair shorn by Loki, and that Thor forced Loki to have a golden headpiece made for Sif, resulting in not only Sif's golden tresses but also five other objects for other gods.  Scholars have proposed that Sif's hair may represent fields of golden wheat, that she may be associated with fertility, family, wedlock..."
This image was created in Photoshop, bringing together several photographs, and doing quite a bit of digital work to make the image have the look and feeling for which I was going.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Power of Thor

Click on the Image to See a Larger Version
Thor is a prominently mentioned god throughout the recorded history of the Germanic peoples, from the Roman occupation of regions of Germania, to the tribal expansions of the Migration Period, to his high popularity during the Viking Age, when, in the face of the process of the Christianization of Scandinavia, emblems of his hammer, Mjölnir, were worn in defiance and Norse pagan personal names containing the name of the god bear witness to his popularity. Into the modern period, Thor continued to be acknowledged in rural folklore throughout Germanic regions. Thor is frequently referred to in place names, the day of the week Thursday ("Thor's day") bears his name, and names stemming from the pagan period containing his own continue to be used today.
I created this image of Thor on my Wacom tablet...and then quite a bit of digital work in Photoshop.  I wanted to create an image of Thor that wasn't too specific about what he looks like, so that the person viewing it would fill in the details with their own thoughts about Thor.  But, I wanted the image to communicate the raw power of Thor.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mead Competition at Lightning Across the Plains 2012

At every LATP there have been some amazing mead-makers in attendance. This year, at Lightning Across the Plains near Kansas City on September 20-23, 2012 we'll have a mead competition on Saturday afternoon.  Anyone attending LATP can enter the contest, and below you will find all the details you need to know.  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

You can sign up for the mead-making contest at the registration table when you arrive at LATP.  Each mead-maker is allowed to enter one or more mead varieties for the competition.  You must supply two bottles of each mead variety in order to enter.  For example, if you are entering only one type of mead in the competition then you need only supply two bottles of it.  But, if you are entering three mead varieties, then you will need to supply 2 bottles of each, for a total of six bottles.

There are two awards available in the mead competition.

MEAD MASTER 2012 - Seven judges from across the Midwest will be chosen based on their experience, pallet, and understanding of mead.  These seven judges will taste each mead in the competition rating each on a wide variety of factors.  The final result will be the selection of one winner who will be declared the Mead Master of LATP 2012.  The Mead Master will receive a beautifully made woodburned plaque to take home with them for bragging rights.

FOLK FAVORITE 2012 - Scores of LATP attendees will have an opportunity to sample the meads that have been entered in the competition, and will then vote for their favorite mead by putting a chip in a voting box for that mead.  At the end of this sampling and voting process the final result will be the selection of one winner who will be declared the Folk Favorite of LATP 2012.  The Folk Favorite will also receive a beautifully made woodburned plaque to take home with them for bragging rights.

Both the Mead Master and the Folk Favorite will get their name on the Lightning Across the Plains website as a standing record of their accomplishment.  The Mead Master and Folk Favorite will be announced and receive their awards at the end of the public Thing meeting.

So, if you are a mead-maker and you are attending Lightning Across the Plains, step up, enter the mead competition, and claim your title!  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Monday, May 28, 2012

Frith - Avoiding Selfish and Self-Centered Behavior

While this can be a little difficult for any modern person to understand or fully comprehend, our Heathen ancestors lived in a state of Frith with their kin.  In a sense, the individual did not exist as a social unit, with the family as the smallest unit within society.  When one member of the family accomplished something good, the whole family was credited and benefited from it.  When one member of the family did something wrong, every member of the family suffered some degree of shame and would pay the price for it.  Having a family or kin group meant that you mattered or had value as a member of that group.  An individual without a kin group had no one to speak for him/her at Thing, no one to avenge his/her death, and that individual was essentially nothing.  Alone.  A Nithling.  With no more powers or rights than an out-law really.

In modern Heathenry, one of the biggest barriers any kindred faces, is the individualism and selfishness taught to us by our mainstream culture.  Our modern culture tells us that our invidual feelings and needs are paramount, and need to be deeply examined, analyzed, and understood.  In a sense, the modern world tends to encourage us to view the world as something of our own creation, and that everyone else is just a secondary character in the story that is our individual life.

Mainstream religions are heavily focused on "individual salvation," the "free will" of the individual, and an individual's personal relationship with the divine.  Our mainstream culture encourages a disposable consumer world, where the individual's pleasure and every materialistic need should be pursued or bought on credit.   Our modern culture has slowly turned marriage, the structural and legal basis for family stability, into a rotating door of multiple marriages, baby's daddies, and a wink-and-a-nod regarding the idea of life-time commitment.  

So, this is the cultural environment from which potential or current members of your kindred are emerging.  A cultural environment completely at odds with the long-term keeping of oaths.  Completely at odds with the concept that the needs of a family or kin group are more important than the needs of any one individual in that group.  Completely at odds with any effort to create a kindred where the members live in true Frith to one another.  Completely at odds with the sort of generousity, openness, and selflessness it takes to fully invest one's efforts into a kindred and to have the best interests of that kindred at the forefront of your thoughts and efforts.  Completely at odds with following the Thew of one's kin group and accepting and participating in the consenus-building at the heart of the successful efforts of one's kin group.

And we wonder why kindred's fail.  We wonder why over time, kindred members leave and new ones take their place, only to be replaced in turn when the those replacements eventually leave.  We wonder why some give up the idea of building strong kindreds amid the frustrations to dealing with pervasive selfishness, drama-seeking, and discord caused by those that can't get out of their own head long enough to really be a full and Frithful part of the group.

So, the point of this essay is to directly address this selfishness, both describing some examples of when selfishness is at play, how to avoid it, and how to deal with it effectively when it happens.

Frithful kindred members understand that everything they do and say, is an extension of their kindred.  They know that their words and deeds directly affect their own personal Gefrain (reputation, renown, fame), but that more importantly their words and deeds directly affect their kindred's Gefrain.  Many modern Heathens have trouble keeping in mind their own Gefrain, let alone the Gefrain of their kindred.  But this is an important part of a honor-based culture, with shame-based consequences for bad actions.  How will something you do affect your kindred?  How will something you say or do affect your kindred?  If what you say or do will have a positive, helpful, and good result for your kindred then move forward.  If what you say or do will have a negative, hurtful, or bad result for your kindred then don't move forward.  This seems a like pretty simple common-sense idea on paper.  But, you will see over and over again, Heathens failing to think about this, or to take it into consideration when making choices.  

Frith demands that part of judging whether your words or deeds will have a positive or negative effect, is considering the Thew (unwritten traditions, expectations) of your kindred.  If you truly know your kindred brothers and sisters well, then you will know how they will view your words and deeds without even having to ask them.  But if you aren't sure, then it is a good idea to ask for rede (advice) on the matter.  And if you say or do something that all or most of your kindred feels had a negative affect on the kindred and they bring it to your attention, you owe it to them to listen and closely consider the rede (advice) they are giving you.  If the matter is serious enough, then the payment of completion of Shyld (obligation) may be required to set things right.

Selfish kindred members care only for their own needs and viewpoints, and give very little, if any, thought to the impact their words or deeds will have upon their kindred.  They don't take kindred Thew, the kindred's Gefrain, or the feelings of their fellow kindred members into consideration when making decisions.  When a kindred member or the kindred as a whole points out something negative that selfish kindred members have done or said, they will tend to get angry, defiant, resentful, and rebellious.  This negative reaction tends to happen no matter how reasonably or calmly they are approached regarding the matter.  Excuses are given, lip-service may be paid, and there may be all kinds of assurances given that it won't happen again.  But, the selfish kindred members will often be right back at it a day or a week later, because they never really bothered to consider or internalize the advice given by the kindred.  Selfish kindred members see kindred Thew as an unwelcome and unfair restriction of their own personal needs and wishes, because the world is all about them.

Frithful kindred members understand that as an extension of their kindred, any first impression of them will also be a first impression an outsider will naturally extend to their kindred.  So, it is important that their words and deeds reflect the honor, the commitment, and the loyalty with which the kindred approaches our Folkway.  Selfish kindred members tend to be loose-cannons that say and do whatever they want, whenever they want, with very little concern for how others will react.  And by extension, they are showing very little concern for how others will react to their kindred.

Frithful kindred members understand that kindred events are at the core of what the kindred is attempting to build, maintain, and accomplish.  They pay careful attention to the kindred schedule, and schedule non-kindred events and other obligations around kindred events as much as possible.  When Frithful kindred members have a lot going on in their lives, they use their time wisely so that they aren't forced to sacrifice time with their kindred in order to get things done they should already have gotten done.  Frithful kindred members don't give constant excuses for missing kindred events, because they understand that everyone in the kindred is busy as well...but that everyone in the kindred is expected to make the time to be there for the kindred.

Selfish kindred members are selfish with their time and don't seem to understand the importance of kindred events.  The often complain about the time-commitment to the kindred.  They don't bother to schedule their other commitments around the kindred, and tend to miss events with a handy excuse every time. When the selfish kindred members have a lot going on in their lives they don't use their time well, forcing them to sacrifice time with their kindred in order finish things they should have gotten done rather than playing video games, watching television, or partying in their free time.  Selfish kindred members can be found at the kindred events that they consider fun or rewarding, but strangely absent at kindred events that weren't their idea or events where work is involved.

At events the kindred is hosting, Frithful kindred members can be seen working hard, anticipating problems, and contributing in every way they can to the effort.  You will see them communicating with one another, supporting each other, and lending a hand whereever it is needed.  

Selfish kindred members have trouble seeing themselves as part of a greater effort, and will often have trouble communicating with other members of their kindred.  They will point out problems for others to solve rather than fixing the problems themselves.  When there is work to be done, selfish kindred members are often difficult to find.  Selfish kindred members often feel or look "lost" in these situations of collaborative effort, as they are unsure or unable to get outside their own heads and see themselves as part of the machinery of the kindred.  They tend to accomplish one or two tasks during the event, and feel satisfied in their effort or even boast about their effort, while others in the kindred complete literally scores of tasks during the same amount of time. 

Frithful kindred members are self-aware enough to know when they are acting on unhealthy patterns in their own lives.  If they aren't self-aware enough to know, then they will at least listen when a kindred member or the kindred as a whole points out some sort of unhealthy pattern they seem to be acting out.  Once the unhealthy pattern has been pointed out, Frithful kindred members factor this into their decision-making, looking for any sign of unreasonable or emotional behavior on their part.  And they freely welcome input from other kindred members at times they are falling back on old unhealthy patterns.

Some examples of unhealthy patterns:
  • Reacting defiantly to anyone who makes a decision or exercises any authority
  • Needing and seeking any form of attention, even negative attention
  • Passive-aggressive behavior
  • Needing to be the center of attention in every situation
  • Doing things for shock value
  • Needing strife and conflict to feel normal, and thus causing discord out of habit
  • Rudeness to other people on a regular basis
  • Drinking too much, coupled with the behavior problems that result
  • Seeing others as parent-figures, and the need to rebel against them
  • Showing a lack of empathy, thinking only of one's self
  • Procrastinating anything difficult or anything unfamiliar
  • Over-committing to events or efforts, and rarely following through
  • etc.
Selfish kindred members do not have any self-awareness.  They never get outside their own heads long enough to really look at themselves, and analyze what they are doing or why they are doing it.  So, they are either unaware of unhealthy patterns they follow, or in being aware of them they have no interest in actually changing them.  When approached by a kindred member or the kindred as a whole about an unhealthy pattern they are following, selfish kindred members refuse to listen or accept what is being told to them.  They will make excuses, justify their negative behavior pattern, and usually attempt to turn the blame back onto the kindred.  Selfish kindred members will sometimes pay lip-service to changing their unhealthy pattern, but because they never fully accept it as true, they refuse to change or correct the problem. 

One factor that inhibits a selfish kindred member from accepting input or criticism from a member of their kindred or the kindred as a whole, is the fact they live according to a "script."  They live the world from inside their own head, and everyone and everything is forced to conform to how they view the world.  All advice and input is put through this filter, and selfish kindred members hear only what they want to hear and understand only what they want to understand.  The kindred can spend scores of hours over many months working with a selfish kindred member to correct a troublesome pattern in their behavior, but very little of what is said is absorbed, understood, or accepted without first going through the filter of what the selfish kindred members think they are should be hearing.  This disconnect in communication will sometimes make it impossible to fix a problem and ultimately, in order to protect itself, the kindred will need to move beyond simply communicating the problem to the selfish kindred member.

Regardless of your kindred structure or the leadership functions you have in place, a kindred fuctions best when decision-making is done by consensus.  A Frithful kindred leader knows to build consensus in his decisions and accept input whenever possible, prior to putting his decisions in place.  Frithful kindred members know that the key to building consensus regarding the direction and efforts of their kindred, is communication.  One must be able to communicate one's ideas, explaining what they entail and the benefits and opportunities they will create.  Frithful kindred members understand that kindred consensus, carefully built and agreed to by the group as a whole, is more likely to succeed and build Luck for the kindred, than the ideas of just one person.  As such, even when they don't 100% agree with an idea or how it is being done, they will trust the consensus process and accept the collective direction the groups want to go.

Selfish kindred members are frustrated by any changes or additions to an idea or opinion they bring forward.  They want what they want, and the idea of spending time building or agreeing to a kindred consensus regarding a decision is time-wasted to their way of thinking.  Because the idea is "theirs," they feel a sense of ownership in the idea and any suggested changes or improvements are intrusions upon something they own.  Selfish kindred members do not understand that a consensus carefully built and agreed to by the group as a whole, is almost always stronger and more likely to succed and bring Luck to the kindred, than the ideas of just one person.  They may understand it intellectually, but emotionally they react completely against the concept.  It is selfish kindred members who are more likely to invoke the "it is my football, and I'm taking it home" rule when they don't get their way.

Frithful kindred members see the efforts and accomplishments of their kindred as something that belongs to the collective whole.  As such, they work hard, take initiative, and when they see something that needs to be done, they do it.  They don't expect anyone to do it for them.  When they see someone else in the kindred that needs help or assistance, they offer that assistance freely.  When Frithful kindred members anticipate or spot a problem, they point it out and offer solutions...they may even offer to fix it on behalf of the kindred.  Frithful kindred members are more likely to be concerned about the kindred succeeding in its goals and efforts, than any concern for who may individually get credit for the work.  They understand that when the kindred succeeds, they succeed as well.  Frithful kindred members say the word "we" as a matter of reflex and this is a window into how they view their relationship with their kindred.

Selfish kindred members tend to wait for things to be done for them.  They often have to be told to work, rarely take initiative, and when they see something that needs to be done, they ask why someone else hasn't done it.  When they see someone else in the kindred that is having trouble with completing a task, they are more likely to offer criticism and judgement than they are offer assistance.  When selfish kindred members anticipate or spot a problem, they tend to empahsize the problem and assign blame, rather than offering any real solutions to what is happening.  Selfish kindred members tend to emphasize their own efforts, and seek credit for those efforts individually.  Selfish kindred members say the word "I" as a matter of reflex, because in their world they are at the center of everything.

I've structured this essay in a very black & white way, pitting Frithful kindred members against selfish kindred members, and comparing and contrasting them.  Almost no-one is flawlessly Frithful in every case and in all but the most extreme cases no-one is utterly selfish.  Encouraging Frith within one's kindred is a constant process.  Over time, Frith becomes a state of mind...a new norm, that replaces the selfish norm of our mainstream culture for those that work at it.  For our kindreds to grow in size, strength, and stability Frith must prosper within our kindreds, and selfishness must be addressed and corrected.  It is my hope that by out-lining some of the symptoms of selfishness, we can see it for what it is and discourage it when it rears its ugly head.

This essay is certainly not about a specific person, and no one reading it should feel the need to get defensive about what is said here.  If you think I'm addressing this essay directly to you specifically, then that is probably a pretty good sign that you are one of those people who thinks "this is all about you."  But we could certainly all benefit from asking ourselves the following questions and carefully considering our answers:

  1. Do you view yourself as an individual that happens to belong to a kindred or do you view yourself as a part of your kindred?
  2. Do you consider the impact your words or deeds may have on your kindred before you speak or act?
  3. Do you consider the thew and expectations of your kindred when choosing your words and deeds?
  4. Do you make every effort to attend kindred events and schedule your calendar around your kindred's calendar?
  5. Do you manage your time, so that you aren't forced to sacrifice time with your kindred due to the time you've wasted playing video-games, watching television, and seeking selfish diversions?
  6. Do you find yourself frequently telling everyone in your kindred how busy you are and why you can't help with things or interact with them as much as you'd like?  Have you ever considered they may be just as busy if not busier than you?
  7. Do you work hard on kindred efforts, contributing in every way you can, solving problems, and making things happen?
  8. Do you examine what you are doing and why you are doing it to make sure you are not acting out unhealthy patterns of behavior?
  9. Do you listen to input and criticism from other kindred members when they point out an unhealthy pattern of behavior that keeps coming up and causing problems...or do you blame such criticism on kindred members being judgemental or "not understanding you?"  Do you often feel like the victim?
  10. Do you sometimes get accused of "not really hearing what people are telling you?  Do you sometimes get accused of "hearing what you want to hear?"
  11. Do you like getting input from other kindred members on your ideas?  Do you accept the collective decision making process and trust the final decision made, even if it doesn't fit exactly with what you wanted to happen?
  12. Do you tend to offer help or offer blame more often when something is not getting done or something is not going as planned?
  13. Are the often the center of drama or discord within your kindred?  Why is that do you think?
If those questions make you uncomfortable or you don't really like your answers to the above questions, then get to work and fix the problem.  You will be happier and more successful and your kindred will be happier and more successful.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Friday, May 25, 2012

Viking Games at Lightning Across the Plains 2012

There is nothing more fun than some friendly, but hard-fought, competition. At Lightning Across the Plains near Kansas City on September 20-23, 2012 we'll spend several hours on Saturday afternoon competing in a variety of contests. All are welcome to participate, though many have a good time just watching the action, and cheering for their favorite participants in the games.  Each of the contests is described in detail below.  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

HAMMER-TOSS - Craig Winkler made an amazing hammer...an incredibly heavy hammer...for the Hammer-Toss at Lightning Across the Plains 2009-2011. We'll be retiring old "Skullsplitter," and creating a nearly identical hammer for LATP 2012.  Each participant gets two throws, and the longest throw is all that counts. Whoever gets the longest throw of the day, is the victor.

The farthest the hammer has ever been thrown is 47 feet and 3 inches. Perhaps you can beat this throw at Lightning Across the Plains 2012.

KINDRED TUG-OF-WAR - Each kindred in attendance may field one team of three kindred members. Everyone on a tug-of-war team has to be a "member" of that kindred. If you are an oathed kindred, then everyone on your team must be oathed. If you are not an oathed kindred, then everyone on the team must be considered a full-member of your kindred.

The ultimate winner of the Kindred Tug-of War gets to take home a large Thor's Hammer trophy. The Franks won a trophy at LATP 2009 and 2010.  Mjolnir Kindred took the trophy in 2011.  Will your kindred take the hammer home from LATP 2012? Time will tell.

STEAL THE WENCH - Its a simple enough game. There's a "house" area outlined by a rope, and a woman inside the house. A man starts outside the house, and must attempt to "steal the wench," get her out of the house, and across a finish line in the shortest time possible. Meanwhile, the woman attempts to drag the man into the "thrall room" of the house, and make him her thrall (slave) for the rest of the weekend.

While its a simple game, its an excellent test of strength and determination. At past LATP's, more than one man met his better and was dragged into the thrall room. And there were numerous matches that ended without victory for either.
So, at Lightning Across the Plains 2012, men and women who want a real challenge will find "Steal the Wench" well worth playing.

We will get the heathen children involved in Tug-of-War and Steal the Wench as well.  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Friday, May 18, 2012

Religious Activities at Lightning Across the Plains 2012

Lightning Across the Plains is a heathen gathering held near Kansas City on Sept. 20-23, 2012.  At LATP heathen kindreds, families, and individuals from across the Heartland come together to honor our Gods, our Ancestors, and the Vaettir as part of a larger regional community.  Toward his end, there are a wide variety of religious activities that take place at LATP, and they are described below.  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

HOF - To the west of our main camping area, there will be a Hof established at Lightning Across the Plains 2012. It will include images and statues of Odin, Thor, and Frey...as well as areas within the Hof for honoring other Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors, and the Vaettir. If you have statues or objects you would like included in the Hof throughout the weekend, please bring them along. When you check-in at the registation table, please provide us with those objects. We'll record your name so that we can make sure you get your items back at the end of the weekend. Sacrifices to the Gods, our Ancestors, and the Vaettir can be offered at the Hof, and we will ensure these items are properly sacrificed.

OPENING & CLOSING RITUAL - At the start of Lightning Across the Plains there will be an Opening Ritual, declaring grith and frith over the gathering. Tyr will be honored, and the perimeter of the gathering area will be walked in procession, with gifts given to the Vaettir of the land to ensure their goodwill and protection from baneful wights. The help of the children at the gathering will be enlisted, and they will have the honor of distributing gifts to the land wights.

VISITING THE VE - Jotun's Bane Kindred has established an outdoor Ve at Gaea Retreat. It is a cleared circle in the woods, at the roots of a large powerful oak tree named Forn Halr ("old man" in Old Norse).  This is our holy tree, and the Ve has a large stone harrow, a firepit, and benches around its perimeter. It is a beautiful and peaceful place, and it is where our kindred takes our kindred oaths. On Saturday morning we'll lead a walk over to the Ve for those that would like to visit it. And we will honor Forn Halr...and leave offerings for the land wights.

ODIN BLOT - Friday evening after dinner, we'll gather for an Odin Blot led by Mjolnir Kindred and Fimbul Winter Kindred both from Colorado.  This celebratory event leads directly into Friday night's Folk Symbel.

FOLK SYMBEL - Friday night after dark, we'll gather around a fire and have a Folk Symbel. A horn will be passed, and we will toast the Gods and Goddesses, our Ancestors & Heroes, and then boast of our accomplishments. As a gathered Folk, we'll put our good words and deeds into the Well. If you know a good poem or a song worth singing, please share it with everyone during this Symbel.  While this Symbel is more informal in its structure, every year it is one those events that has a lot of impact on everyone participating.

SATURDAY NIGHT FAINING - After dinner on Saturday night, we'll gather as a Folk and celebrate with a large Faining our relationship with our Elder Kin.

SATURDAY NIGHT HIGH SYMBEL - After the Faining, we will enter the Hall as Tribes, Families, and individual heathens and conduct a High Symbel. At 2011's Lightning Across the Plains, 109 adults sat in Symbel and spoke good words over the horn. This is a formal event, and if you have garb to wear and are so inclined please wear it. But garb is not required. This is a night for bold and Tru words, gift-giving, and the forming of bonds among the Folk.

THOR FAINING - On Sunday morning, prior to the Heathen Auction, there will be a Thor Faining led by Hridgar Folk Kindred from Texas.  Asa-Thor is honored and asked to grant his protection to everyone in attendance on their journeys home from Lightning Across the Plains.

In addition to these activities, there are 15 workshops throughout the weekend about various topics within Heathenry.  We'll be announcing these workshops in detail in the next week or so.  To learn more about LATP or to register for the event, visit http://www.latpgathering.com.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How Our Fame Lives on After We are Dead...

The "afterlife" in Heathenry is a puzzle.  But this puzzle is nothing new. It seems pretty clear that the afterlife was a puzzle to our ancestors as well.  Our Heathen ancestors held a variety of views about what might happen to us when we die, depending on where they lived and when they lived.  This led to a variety of burial practices and traditions among our Ancestors.  In modern Heathenry, you have those that hold to more traditional views and you have those that hold afterlife beliefs that are entirely modern.  One thing is certain, to me, at least.  None of really knows what happen or where we will go when we die.  We all have our pet theories...or our wishful thinking, of course.  But none of us know.

So, it is good that most Heathens focus more on living this life, rather than talking about or hoping for what might come after death.  Most of us are happy to leave the afterlife an interesting mystery, and are resolved to just wait and see what happens.  Meanwhile, we have lives to lead, work to do, and families to raise right here in the physical world.  And that brings us to the one "afterlife" answer that both our Heathen ancestors and modern Heathens all tend to agree upon...

Our mainstream culture judges each man and woman by a diverse collection of traits.  A person's emotions and intentions must be taken into consideration.  They up-bringing and experiences in life are factored into the equation.  How much money they make and how attractive they are are heavily weighted as well.  It is not that modern society doesn't judge people by their deeds, but modern society does not weight one's deeds very heavily.

Among heathens, it is one's deeds that matter most.  If you do something good, helpful, and positive for my family and my kindred on a consistant basis, then you are good.  If you do something bad, hurtful, and negative for my family and my kindred on a consistant basis, then you are bad.  Your upbringing, your emotions, your intentions, how much money you have, or how attractive you are has very little to do with it.  Let's look at two well-know (among Heathens) verses from the Havamal...

77. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
But a noble name | will never die,
If good renown one gets.
78. Cattle die, | and kinsmen die,
And so one dies one's self;
One thing now | that never dies,
The fame of a dead man's deeds.

These are fairly pragmatic and clear in their wisdom.  Our ancestors recognized that everything's and everyone's physical existence must end.  We're all going to die.  They understood that the only thing that lives on from a man's life in this world is his renown, his fame, and the memory of what he has done in this life.  Did he stand by his kith and kin?  Did he work hard, take appropriate chances, and accomplish lasting things?  Did he live his life with honor, strength, and loyalty to those that deserved his loyalty?  Did he die a good death?  Our dead body rots, but our accomplishments live on. 

But who will remember our deeds and keep our name alive?  For nearly all of us, the only fame that will truly live on is the fame earned while pushing your family and kindred forward. The individual is nothing. But, the individual's contributions to future generations are remembered and live forever among those generations that benefit from those contributions.  As it says in the Havamal...

72. A son is better, | though late he be born,
And his father to death have fared;
Memory-stones | seldom stand by the road
Save when kinsman honors his kin.

Our descendants have a vested interest in us as their ancestors.  If we have done well in life, we have given them a good starting place for their own lives.  If we have done poorly in life, then we have given them defficient starting place for their own lives.

We see this whole idea in the concept of Orlog.  Orlog is a part of the heathen soul that is passed from parent to child, down through the generations of one's family.  Orlog is all of those deeds, or layers, you have put in the Well.  It is the tapestry of your life that you have woven with every choice you have made, the work you have done, and the things you have accomplished.  It is said that an honorable parent who has lived an honorable and accomplished life passes good Orlog to one's children.  While a parent that has lived a dishonorable or lackluster life passes bad Orlog to one's children.  Our children make their own way in the world, but they start with the foundation of Orlog you have given them.  A child that receives good Orlog has a head-start in a sense, in that they are building upon everything good their parents (and their parents, on back) have put in the Well.  A child that receives bad Orlog can still lead a good life, but it is more difficult, for they will be hampered in their progress by the poor foundation upon which they are building.

In very practical terms, we see real-life examples of this concept everyday.  And no doubt, our Heathen ancestors saw very similar examples in their own lives.  Any child can grow up to be honorable, and successful, and an adult of great worth.  But, how much easier is it for a child with parents that are honorable, and successful, and worthy?  And, how much harder is it for a child with parents that are dishonorable, failures, and lacking in worth?

So, it is only natural that it is our families that keep our memory alive, if we have lived a life worth remembering.  It is our descendants that raise a horn to us in Symbel and speak of our deeds and accomplishments.  It is our descendants that speak of us to their children, set a plate out for us at family dinner, and boast of being descended from us long after we are dead.  But, only if we have earned it.

Some people say you should live each day as though it were your last. And they turn this into an excuse to pursue selfish pleasure, experience, and "adventures." As a heathen, if you are living each day as though it were your last, then you should be working your ass off to leave the next generation of heathens better off than our own. Leave them with solid kindreds to grow up in and take over when we are gone.  Leave them with the skills you have learned in your life and taken the time to teach to them.  Leave them with wisdom and experience recorded in such a way that they can learn from it. Leave them with bonds of friendship with other heathens of their generation, so they can build upon that foundation. No one will remember what video games we conquered, or who we danced or slept with, or the beer we drank, or any of the selfish pleasures we may seek out. But, they will remember the work we've done and the foundation we leave for them after we are gone.

This is a simple thing to understand on paper, but the emotional-focus and selfishness of our age get in the way for a lot of folks.  One of the biggest things that heathenry itself and more specifically each heathen kindred needs to overcome is selfishness. In this day and age, it is very hard to let go of the idea that it is "all about me."  We should make all of our decisions based on the welfare of our family and our loyal friends (kindred) first and foremost.  We need to keep the big-picture in mind, and the generational effects of every decision we make in our lives.  

For a Heathen that believes that our Folkway is the heathiest and most spiritually fulfilling way to live, then sharing that Folkway with one's children should be given some priority.  For a tribal Heathen like myself, that means building a maintaining a strong and healthy kindred and fully involving my children in the activities of this kindred.  It means building lasting traditions and thew that they can adapt and evolve over time once they are in charge.  It means traveling with my children to Heathen gatherings, so they can play with Heathen children from other kindreds and build bonds of friendship that can last into adulthood.  It means teaching them what I know, and encouraging them to seek out their own knowledge.  It means providing them with a stable, nurturing, and somewhat disciplined home environment that allows them to grow to their full potential.  And it means a lot of other things that can't all be listed here, due to the constraints of space and the patience of anyone reading this essay.

It is always possible that one could accomplish great things and still not be remembered by name after a couple of generations.  But, what is our real goal here?  Are we working hard, living honorably, making wise desicions, and accomplishing great things just so we an be remembered by name?  

It is worth pointing out that what we are talking about is a way of life.  The end goal of this way of life is not just to be remembered.  The end goal is to accomplish things for one's family that are worth remembering. To pass solid and powerful Orlog down one's family line, and to create a foundation upon which future generations can build something even better than we can even imagine. If my great grand-children grow up in a world where Heathenry has grown in size and quality, then I won't begrudge them for taking it for granted. I'd love them to remember me, but I don't do these things for the singular purpose of being remembered by name or deed.

Do the leaves of a tree remember the limb that holds them up? Do the leaves remember the trunk that sprouted the limbs? Do the leaves remember the roots that hold up the tree? By simply existing and thriving high in the air, the leaves are a memorial to the efforts of the limb and the trunk and the roots to grow and spread out. As an ancestor, I'll be there in my descendants, in their blood...in their souls...remembered. And that will be the case whether they remember me by name or not.

If one escapes the modern preoccupation with individual identity for a moment, and you consider your life as just one moment along a long chain of lives stretching backwards into history...and forwards into possibility, then the work you do is not only for yourself. Your work is a continuation of all that came before you and a prelude to all the work that will come after you.  Your accomplishments are built on the foundation passed to you by your ancestors, and the accomplishments of your descendents will be built upon whatever you have managed to add during your time here on Midgard. 

Is this still a meaningful way in which to be remembered?  If we believe in the concept of Orlog...and a spiritual and physical connection between ancestor and descendant, then I will be content to be remembered in such a way. How many times in Symbel do we hear a toast made to all of those ancestors that toiled so hard and sacrificed so much to give us the lives we now live? In Jotun's Bane Kindred's symbels that toast is often heard.

Would I like to be remembered by name and deed by my descendants? Sure I would. But, if we work so hard and accomplish so much right now that our accomplishments are someday taken for granted...have we not still won the battle? I'm not so self-centered so as to demand being remembered by name. That is something that is hard-earned, and not up to me. I'll do the work...and my descendants will make the choice whether to remember me in that way.  Either way, I'll be there in their lives long after my physical body has rotted away.

Though a horn raised to great-granddad now and again, couldn't hurt. :-)

One of my driving motivations behind writing the essays I write, is that I want to leave something for my children that they can read and know what I believed and how I chose to live. My children are 6, 9, and 11...and were I to drop dead tomorrow, how much would my 6-year-old remember that I've taught him? So, there are times when I am tired or want to rest, and I think to myself, "Do it now...because you might not have tomorrow." And I'll write another essay...or work on kindred stuff...or do something else that needs to get done in order to build the foundation I'm working on for them.

Now, they may grow up and have a different world-view than mine. And as long as they are happy and fulfilled, that will be fine with me. But, at least they'll know I worked for them and shared what I knew with them. Where they choose to go with that is their responsibility ultimately. But, they won't be building from scratch, no matter where they go.

And so it is with each of us.  Take some time to think about it.  Are you passing good Orlog to your children and their children?  Are you building a foundation of honor and accomplishment for them to add to, and advance further than you could ever advance it in your limited time on earth?  Are you teaching them the skills and wisdom they will need to be better than you?  Are you using your time in this world to live a life worth remembering?  These are questions you can only answer for yourself right now.  But ultimately, it will be your children and the generations that come after them that will judge you based on your deeds and accomplishments in this life, and it will be they that decide whether you are worth remembering after you are gone.

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Endless On-Line Debates about "Race in Asatru"

Within 5 minutes of signing onto Facebook, I can be certain of running across some heated, trollish, angry debate about "Race in Asatru."  It really begs the question what any of us have to gain by arguing on-line over this Folkish/Unversalist, ethnicity, "race," inclusion/exclusion topic for another 20 years.  For the past 20 years, this topic has artificially divided our Folkway.  For the past 20 years, this topic has distracted us with its emotional fervor.

Let's be honest.  No one ever convinces anyone else of their opinion on this topic in an on-line discussion.  People scream and shout, and get their blood boiling posting at people that they don't even know and will very likely never meet.  And what is the benefit of this?  What positive effect has this had?

None.  Its simply casts a dark shadow over all we do.  Getting on-line and arguing about "Race" is essentially emotional/intellectual masturbation.  You have the chicken-littles running about constantly posting that the sky is falling and moaning about "racists," all the while competing for who can sound the most tolerant, accepting, and "enlightened" on the issue.  Then you have the "racists" running about constantly posting about how "white" they are, all the while competing for who can sound the most strident and pure in their outlook.  

And finally you have the rest of us wondering how the heck this ridiculous topic has managed to dominate the Asatru landscape for decades now.  It is Pointless.  Purposeless.  Empty.  It is a topic that is used to divide us.  It is a topic used to drum up membership in organizations and factions within our Folkway.

To my tribal way of thinking, let each kindred decide how they are going to pursue this topic, and everyone stay out of everyone else's business.  I you find a kindred that has views on the topic you aren't comfortable with, then join a different kindred or start you own.  At gatherings, if every kindred respects the autonomy of other kindreds to approach this topic (as well as so many others) in the way that is best suited for them, then everyone can gather in Grith.  Problem solved.  Done.  Move on.

My hope is that we could live in a world where everyone acknowledges that this "dead horse" is indeed dead.  A world where when someone tries to bait others into a discussion of this topic, everyone ignores them or the moderators simply delete it.  But, that's an unrealistic wish.  20 years from now, hoards of on-line heathens will still be fitfully debating this topic on whatever 3-D holographic social media we're using at that point.  20 years from now, people will still be enjoying the rush of pointless bloody battle over a topic that will never be fully resolved.

Next time you see someone bringing up this topic, think to yourself..."Why isn't that person out doing something?"  There are so many things to be done.  Start a kindred in your local area. Host a regular heathen study group. Host a gathering. Schedule a heathen workshop or class.  Go to a gathering. Read a book. Write a book.  Teach your family your culture and ways. Honor our Gods and your ancestors.  Make something positive happen in our Folkway.  DO SOMETHING!

Go do something...and post about what you are doing. That's what I enjoy reading about when I'm browsing Facebook.

As for my own opinion on this "dead-horse" topic?  I've expressed it elsewhere in an essay I wrote, that was later included in a book along with about a 100 other topics related to Heathenry that I consider more important.  Honestly, when it comes to your family and your kindred, you shouldn't really care what I think about the topic anyway. 

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On-Line Registration for LATP 2012 is Open!

ON-LINE REGISTRATION FOR LATP 2012 IS NOW OPEN, and the full-event website is now up-and-running. We're pretty proud of how it turned out. Check it out and feel free to help us spread the word. :-)


Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lightning Across the Plains - Sept 20-23, 2012

Heathenry is about community, gathering as a people, shaking a man or woman's hand, looking them in the eye, hearing their voice, telling stories, getting to know each other. Its letting your kids play together. Letting your spouses get to know each other. Its about laughing at dumb jokes, and telling stories from your life. Its about mingling Wyrd...and taking the measure of another person, and finding them of worth.

On September 20-23, 2012, heathen tribes, strong families, and solid heathen individuals from around the Heartland will gather at Gaea Retreat, a pagan campground about 40 minutes outside of the Kansas City Area. There were 240 heathens at LATP in 2010 and 225 heathens at LATP in 2011, with 65-70 children in attendance both years. This makes Lightning Across the Plains one of the largest heathen gatherings in the world.

Our registration/information packet for LATP 2012 contains a full schedule for the event, information on both tent-camping and reserving a spot in a cabin, plus details on the meals, workshops, faining, symbels, childrens activities, viking games, what you'll need to bring with you, and everything else you could possibly want to know about the event. It also has a registration form for those that wish to register by snail-mail...

Lightning Across the Plains Information/Registration Packet

This year you can register as a "full-registration" for Sept 20-23 or a "weekend-only registration" for Sept 21-23. Full-registration is $50 for an individual and $70 for a family of up to five. Weekend-only registration is $40 for an individual and $60 for a family up to five. Both registration choices include all camping fees and your dinners. Cabins are available for $5 per bed per night.

You can register at this website using PayPal, or by mailing in a Registration Form the old-fashioned way:

Lightning Across the Plains 2012 Website

At the above website, you will also find comprehensive information about what's planned for the gathering, and its purpose. Mark this on your calendar and come and be apart of the largest heathen gathering in the world.


Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods